(Christ the King: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43)
Most Catholic Churches do not have a statue or other image of Jesus seated on a throne as King of the Universe. All, however, have a crucifix prominently displayed, showing Christ at the supreme moment of his love for us.
The crucifix worn by Mary at La Salette is, as we have often stated, central to her apparition. It is also unique. People who see it for the first time invariably ask what the hammer and pincers mean. (It’s interesting to ask them first what they think it means.)
The simplest answer is that the children described these as part of the Beautiful Lady’s dress, not attached to the cross but under its arms. Apart from that, there is no official interpretation. The most common explanation, however, is that the hammer represents sin, driving the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, and the pincers symbolize repentance, removing the nails. In other words, they indicate a choice.
Today’s gospel, too, shows us Christ crucified. Put yourself at the scene. Hear the cries, “Save yourself!” Note that he is one of three criminals being crucified that day. The other two are on his right and left.
One of those joins in the hostility of the crowd. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” He shows no compassion for a fellow sufferer. The other rebukes him, and then expresses amazing faith and hope as he says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” These are the only kind words addressed to Jesus on the cross.
There is, if you will, a parallel between the La Salette crucifix and the two criminals. One, like the hammer, causes pain; the other, like the pincers, undoes it. Again we see the choice for or against Christ, presented in an especially poignant manner.
Jesus responds with a promise: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (At La Salette, the equivalent is the prophetic vision of abundance, accompanied by living hope.)
If the people there mocking him only knew what we know, as St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:8, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” They might have understood that he chose not to save himself because he was saving us.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.
(33rd Ordinary Sunday: Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19)
The Prophet Malachi and Jesus both prophesy a time of trouble. In the first reading, “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven.” In the gospel, “Days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone.” An ominous doomsday-like prospect!
Both also offer encouragement to the faithful. “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Malachi). “You are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking” (Jesus).
Here we find two terms that are found together three times in the Old Testament, in the familiar text: “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.” Among the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom is listed first, and fear of the Lord, last.
It is well known that fear of the Lord does not mean being afraid of God, but rather respecting him so much that we would never wish to offend him. In this sense, the Beautiful Lady of La Salette says, “Don’t be afraid,” but then goes on to describe ways in which her people have no fear of the Lord.
Those who fear God in the proper sense, are ready to submit to his will, however it is manifested in their life. It may include persecution or a call to generous service, but at the very least it means living in such a way that we might serve as a model to others.
In the second reading, St. Paul states: “We wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.” Specifically, he wants Christians to earn their keep rather than expect others to provide for them. But in 1 Corinthians 11:1 he makes a broader claim: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
Jesus is, indeed, the ultimate model of fear of the Lord. He was “obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). At La Salette, Mary invited us to reclaim this gift of the Holy Spirit.
It would be imprudent, if not arrogant, to tell others to imitate us. And yet, in a certain sense, our Christian faith is inevitably on display. As Jesus says in John 13:35: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This, too, is fear of the Lord.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.